WATERLOO | Seventeen-year-old Lyric Stier ran away from home shortly after her early discharge from the Iowa Juvenile Home just ahead of the facility’s closure in January.
Still on the run, the Marshalltown teen said she would turn herself in "in a minute” if the facility were to reopen as a Polk County judge ordered Wednesday.
"What?! That’s awesome! I mean if it reopened and that means that I would go back there if I turned myself in, then I’d be there in a minute,” Lyric wrote in a Facebook message.
Lyric shared her views via a chat with The Courier on her mobile phone earlier this week.
She remains with friends. She reached out to former juvenile home employees and supporters because she believes the home should not have closed, and she says the staffers were among the best she had worked with.
"When I had a struggle or I needed someone, I could reach out to them and I still do,” Lyric said. "Right now if IJH was still open I wouldn’t be on the run. I’d be there with my family, the people I trust and the people that mean the world to me.”
Whether the home will reopen is an open question. Gov. Terry Branstad asked the Iowa Supreme Court on Friday afternoon to overturn the ruling by District Court Judge Scott Rosenberg. Democratic senators are also separately pushing legislative action that would reopen the facility and better define its mission.
Lyric is one of two girls who have run away since the Iowa Department of Human Services began discharging youths from the juvenile home last July.
The department began moving youths from the facility following reports of abuse. Though the staff received training following the incidents and the involved staffers were fired, the discharges continued. On Dec. 9, Branstad ordered the facility closed by mid-January, and the final young woman was discharged the day before the home shut down.
DHS officials released a report at the request of Iowa lawmakers Monday that showed the status of the discharged youths. Of the 50 there last July, 16 had been sent home.
For Lyric, home was to one of the worst environments possible.
She said her juvenile court officer ordered her to go to the facility after she ran from her most recent placement in Bremwood Residential Treatment Center. Lyric said she was placed in the system after her mother pressed charges after the teen took her mother’s car without permission.
Lyric said when she was sent home, she started arguing with her mother again and had the added stress of her father trying to reconnect with her after years of his drug abuse.
She said that environment caused her to feel like it was either “fight or flight.”
Lyric chose flight.
Her description of what happened next is a more colorful version of the details described in the DHS report about the status of the runaways.
“One child, who was adjudicated delinquent, was placed at home and the court closed the case which ended the state’s jurisdiction," according to the report.
"We were notified by another state per our standard procedures established in the Interstate Compact on Juveniles and local law enforcement that the child had run away and been detained. We are aware of the particulars of this situation and have done what we can to arrange for the child’s return; however we are aware that the child has run away again. Please be assured that we continue to contact appropriate local law enforcement with any information we learn about the child’s situation," the report adds.
Lyric said she "went traveling” with some friends, which took her to South Carolina and New York before they ran out of gas in Ohio. With no options, she said, they turned themselves in. She spent a week in detention before getting a bus ride home through an organization that helps youths.
The bus took her to Cedar Rapids, and she “missed” her connection back to Marshalltown. Instead another friend came to get her.
“I just honestly don’t wanna go home cause I know it’s gonna be hell and not going to be a good place for me to be,” Lyric said.
She has friends and family she can stay with until she figures out her next steps.
Lyric said she was due to be discharged from the Iowa Juvenile Home in January, but the closure meant she was sent home Dec. 20, which was also her graduation day.
Though she would have been discharged soon after graduation, Lyric said, it would have been better for her to have a slower transition.
“I might have been able to have more help before I went home so that it actually went smoothly or I might have been able to think more about independent living too,” Lyric said.
The other juvenile runaway, according to the DHS report, remains missing. The child was a child in need of assistance with delinquency charges pending.
The child was discharged from the facility and sent home following completion of a 30-day evaluation. Five months after that, the child ran away.
“The department will continue to coordinate with local law enforcement. The child is listed as a missing person and there is a pick up order," according to the report.